Monday, February 27, 2017

How to “Manage” Mental Health Care – Military Style

Disclaimer: 

This is a humorous spoof  – tongue-in-cheek satire – Humor in Uniform” – pure fiction – just for fun and humor  no offence is meant to anyone – so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh. 

MENTAL HEALTH CARE “MANAGEMENT” – MILITARY STYLE
A Fictional Spoof
By
VIKRAM KARVE

(NB: The generic terms “Fauji” and “Soldier” refer to all Military Personnel (Officers/Soldiers/Sailors/Airmen) and the term “Faujan” refers to all Military Wives...) 

A few months ago – I attended a Literary Festival in Pune.

There was a session on “Stereotypes” in Fiction.

The panelists decried the tendency to stereotype characters – especially in romantic fiction.

Among the panelists was an Army Wife (“Faujan”) – an accomplished author – who has written a successful novel on an Army Wife’s Life.

I candidly told her that – in her novel – she too had “stereotyped” her “hero” – a “Quintessential” Army Officer = “Tough Macho Man” + “Debonair Gentleman” + “Ideal Boyfriend” + “Super Husband” + “Perfect Father” …et al

She agreed with me – that – at least in Indian Literature – most novels/movies with a military backdrop have a tendency to “stereotype” the Military Officer as the “ultimate impeccable superman” with all the perfect qualities.

Most Military Literature, Movies and Jingoistic Military Recruitment Advertisements reinforce such “stereotypes” of Army, Navy and Air Force Officers.

I have come across a few “Military Wife” Blogs (written by “Faujans”) – where – there is a tendency to stereotype the “Military Wife” – and – believe it or not – even the “Military Girlfriend” has been stereotyped.

If you have served in military uniform – or – if you are married to a person who has served in uniform – you will know that Military Officers and Military Wives (“Faujis” and “Faujans”) are like most normal human beings.

Thanks to this stereotyping of the “Military Officer/Soldier” (“Fauji”) – there is a perception that “Faujis” are so physically robust and mentally tough that it is not possible for “Faujis” to suffer from an “effeminate” frailty like “depression”.

The quintessential “Fauji” is supposed to be a “Tough Guy”.

So – a “Fauji” is expected to be at one of the two “macho” extremes – either he is supposed to be macho “compos mentis” – or go macho “berserk” and run amok.

In the military – there is no scope for middle-of-the-road sensitive fragilities like “depression”.

Things may be different now – but the “good old days” – Mental Health was a simple “Black” and “White” matter – either you were “sane” – or – you were “insane” – there was nothing in between the two extremes.

Being “sensitive” or “emotional” was considered “un-militarily-like” – there was no place for a “sentimental sissy” in the military.

Such “mushy” traits were considered as a sign of effeminate weakness and lack of OLQ (Officer Like Qualities).

The military motto was: “Stop crying like a woman – you must take it like a man”

If you had an “emotional problem” – you had to “sort out” your own problem – or – you had to bear it with stoicism.

If you could not “sort out” your emotional problem – and – you were forced to endure your emotional problem with stoicism – two things could happen:

1. Either – the emotional problem cured itself – and – in due course of time – you became okay.

2. Or – the emotional problem worsened and metamorphosed into a psychiatric disorder – in which case – you were declared a “psycho” – and – sent to the psychiatrist. 

Things may have changed now – but – in the “good old days” – there was no concept of psychological counselling to alleviate emotional problems faced by “Faujis”.  

In the earlier system of relying exclusively on psychiatric treatment – Military Officers/Soldiers were afraid – that if they officially reported their “emotional problems” to their superiors – it would be presumed that they were suffering from “psychiatric disorders” – and – they would be sent to military hospitals for psychiatric treatment.
Once Officers/Soldiers were referred for psychiatric treatment – their medical category would be downgraded – and – thereafter – for the rest of their life in the service – they would suffer the stigma of being branded as “psycho” – and – their military careers would be ruined forever.

As it is – in those days – Military Officers/Soldiers were apprehensive of going to “specialist” doctors – since they wanted to avoid down-gradation of their “medical category” – which could affect their career prospects.

But – “Faujis” were most terrified of being referred to Psychiatrists – not only would your “medical category” be down-graded – but – you would be branded a “psycho” to boot.

Hence – Officers/Soldiers suppressed their emotional distress.

Emotionally depressed Officers/Soldiers tried to “sort out” their emotional problem with “self-cure” – by adopting philosophical/spiritual self-help techniques like “positive thinking” “meditation” “prayer” etc.

Or – “Faujis” resorted to the universal “panacea” for all ills – alcohol – which was provided at concessional rates to “Faujis” – as the macho “remedy” for “depression cure”

“Self-Cure” or “Alcohol Cure” may have worked in some cases of “depression”.

But – if the emotionally distressed individual could not cure himself – this could ultimately result in serious ramifications like mental illness – or – even suicide – in extreme cases.

I do not recall any psychologists posted as counsellors on board naval ships with whom officers/sailors could talk regarding their emotional problems. 

The only “counsellors” available were your friends, your family – or – your superior officers – like the officer in the story below – titled “Depression Management” 


DEPRESSION MANAGEMENT (an apocryphal story)

During my early Navy days – we this Senior Lieutenant on our ship who had coined a maxim which epitomized “Depression Management” in the Navy:

EVERY PROBLEM IS A “MINOR PROBLEM” 

and 

A “MINOR PROBLEM” IS “NO PROBLEM”...

(Therefore – Every Problem is No Problem...)


A young Sub Lieutenant felt depressed. 

So – went to this Senior Lieutenant (who was his direct boss) and said: 

“Sir – I have a personal problem…”

The Senior Lieutenant promptly enunciated his favourite slogan:

“Every Problem is a “Minor Problem” – and – a “Minor Problem” is “No Problem”…”

Then – the Senior Lieutenant scolded the Sub Lieutenant and asked him to stop behaving like a sissy: “In the Navy – you sort out your own problems – you don’t go crying like a bloody sissy to your boss regarding your personal problems...

After that – the Senior Lieutenant shouted at the Sub Lieutenant to “get lost” – to “vamoose” – and ordered him to get on with his work.  

In the evening – the distraught Sub Lieutenant tried to unburden himself by talking about his personal problem to his shipmates in the wardroom.

It was a simple “affair of the heart”.

The Officer had fallen in Love with a Girl from a Wealthy Business Family.

The girl’s parents were not interested in their only daughter marrying a “penurious” Navy Officer.

(In fact – the girl was the “only child” of her parents and she was the heir to their “business empire”)

So – the parents had arranged a suitable “business match” for her daughter befitting their affluence and “status” – and – of course – the “business marriage” of their daughter to the son of a business tycoon would help expand their “business empire” as well.

And – though the girl loved the Navy Officer – the girl did not have the guts to go against her parents’ wishes.

The depressed officer’s well-meaning shipmates “counselled” him over a drink in the wardroom:

1. “Forget about her – just get another girl – if you want – I will introduce you to a sexy “fleet auxiliary” who is available at the moment…”

2. “Come on – drink up – and – by tomorrow – you will be fine…”

3. “Why are you crying like a bloody sissy…? You are a tough Naval Officer. Just go and sort it out yourself – just go there – pick up your girl – elope with her – and – get married…” 

Now – the depressed officer was deeply in love with the girl – and – it was not possible for him to forget her – and - neither was he interested in having a “lustful affair” with a “fleet auxiliary”.

So – the “depressed officer” drank up – glass after glass of whisky – till – he was drunk to the hilt – and – fortified with alcohol-induced “Dutch Courage” – he drove down on his bike to the girl’s house to “sort out the matter”.

Well – the officer may have been emotionally vulnerable – but – physically – he was a huge powerful hulk – and – in his wild drunken state – he looked very intimidating.

You can well imagine what must have happened – when the fearsome formidable “angry young man” – dangerously drunk and berserk – ran amok in a menacing manner – and – he accosted the girl’s parents  and he tried to forcibly elope with the girl. 

It was with great difficulty that they managed to overpower him with the help of the police – who handed him over to the naval police.

Well – in order to save him from big trouble – the easiest thing for the “powers-that-be” to do – was to fill up a form (AFMSF-10)  and to refer the “depressed officer” for psychiatric examination (notwithstanding the fact that he would be branded a “psycho” for life).

Well – you may think that this illustrative fictional story of an “affair of the heart” is a tall story.

But – the fact of the matter is – that – especially in today’s world – military men (and even military wives) – “Faujis” and “Faujans” – they need “emotional sustenance” – to face the multitude of problems peculiar to the Armed Forces – especially pertaining to Soldiers deployed in combat situations and their families.

And – for this “emotional sustenance” – isn’t compassionate counselling a better option than harsh psychiatric treatment…?

Military Hospitals have “Military Psychiatrists” to cure those who have gone “crazy”.

But – I wonder if units/ships have easily accessible “Military Psychologists” to prevent individuals from going “crazy”…?

Isn’t prevention better than cure…? 

VIKRAM KARVE
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Disclaimer:
1. This story is a fictional spoof, satire, pure fiction, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh.
2. All Stories in this Blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the stories are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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This article is an abridged version of my article DEPRESSION MANAGEMENT aka PSYCHO posted by me online many times in my various blogs including at urls: http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2016/09/humor-in-uniform-depression-management.html  and  https://karve.wordpress.com/2016/09/16/military-psychology-for-emotional-sustenance-and-depression-management/  etc
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